PM favours campaign financing laws

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Mar 7, CMC – Prime Minister Allen Chastanet says he favours the introduction of campaign financing legislation in St. Lucia saying it represents an even more important issue than having fixed dates for general elections here.

But Opposition Leader Phillip J. Pierre believes that the issue of campaign financing could be adequately dealt with if the present system of “winner takes all” is amended with some “level of discretion”.

Both Chastanet and Pierre were participating in a live television debate on “Fundamental Rights and Freedom” on Monday night as part of the discourse on the Constitutional reform in the country.

Prime Minister Chastanet, who led his United Workers Party (UWP) to victory in the general elections last June, told viewers that he does not believe that a fixed date for election “is such an important thing.

“I think campaign financing is much more important of an issue than the fixed date and if you are going to have a fixed date I would like to think that the fixed date would come with a substantial amount of campaign financing reform.”

The Organisation of American States (OAS), which has sent observer missions to several Caribbean countries for elections, has repeatedly called on Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries to seriously consider the issue of campaign financing.

“The legal arrangements governing elections and election financing focus more on the activities of individual candidates than those of parties, which, in many states, lack definition as legal entities. They are codified in Representation of the People’s Acts or Ordinances (RPA/RPO), which state how much candidates and their election agents are authorised to spend during an election, what they must disclose at the end of the process, and the penalties for infringements,” according to the publication “From Grassroots to the Airwaves: Paying for Political Parties and Campaigns in the Caribbean,” an OAS Inter-American Forum on Political Parties publication.

It noted that “everywhere in the Caribbean, there is majority opposition to the public funding of political parties, largely because of the mistrust with which voters view politicians and parties and their unwillingness to burden the Treasury with the cost of maintaining them, whether during election campaigns or throughout the year”.

Chastanet told television viewers that when you look at countries such as the United Kingdom, there are bill boards, television and radio advertising and ‘a lot of things that restrict what you can do.

“So I would like to think that (with) campaign financing …that we can sit down and agree on some basic regulatory procedures in moving forward

“And even though they may not require constitutional change I would feel much more comfortable proceeding…knowing that there was a consensus in how we are going to do that.

“I feel right now where we are in St. Lucia that when you look at it that (campaign financing) has been a great impediment”.

He said that unfortunately, there is the perception that the party that’s in government “tends to seem to have much more financing.

“We have seen in other countries where it has been obnoxious in the amount of money that the government has had relative to the opposition,” Chastanet said, making reference to a situation “where one party brought in something like 14 charter flights.

“We see other disparities. I don’t think it has been glaring as that in St. Lucia but it is something that ought to be brought under control”.

For his part, Pierre, a former deputy prime minister and now leader of the main opposition St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) said that he believes the present system can work, but what is important is a need for a change in attitude of the people in it.

“We live in an environment and I think that is fundamental problem …where the winner takes all and he talks all, all all

“In terms of election the prime minister knows when he can call it, he knows what he must do to call it , he knows which constituencies he want to win so he can put resources there…So when you have a system like that a fixed date would be better and if there is a system where the playing field is level, because the government will always have an advantage that is expected that’s the nature of politics”.

Pierre said that’s the price of winning. “When you win you have an advantage and when you lose you are disadvantaged..

“That’s why I spoke earlier about the role of Parliament I believe that many of our problems in terms of how we debate, how we deal with the issues how we campaign, even campaign financing would be brought into a more equitable degree if our winner takes all system, winner takes all but winner takes all with some level of discretion.”

The Opposition Leader said that’s among the main problems with the system.

“What it does every four and half years….even if we win elections it does not mean the majority of the people supports us”.

Pierre said that there was need to develop a system where the minority of the people who do not support the government and still do not belong to opposition party “can exist…can live…can produce and contribute to our society.

5 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    March 8, 2017 at 7:37 pm

    The minute you talk about campaign financing laws, the first thing that come to mind is that the taxpayers will have to supply moneys to political parties….. The Island does not have money to operate the hospital but now the taxpayers have to get money to supply cash to political parties for elections….. This is madness…

  2. Anonymous
    March 8, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    Main article: Party subsidies
    Other countries choose to use government funding to run campaigns. Funding campaigns from the government budget is widespread in South America and Europe.[10] The mechanisms for this can be quite varied, ranging from direct subsidy of political parties to government matching funds for certain types of private donations (often small donations) to exemption from fees of government services (e.g. postage) and many other systems as well. Supporters of government financing generally believe that the system decreases corruption; in addition, many proponents believe that government financing promotes other values, such as civic participation or greater faith in the political process. Not all government subsidies take the form of money; some systems require campaign materials (often air time on television) to be provided at very low rates to the candidates. Critics sometimes complain of the expense of the government financing systems. Conservative and libertarian critics of the system argue that government should not subsidize political speech.[citation needed] Other critics argue that government financing, with its emphasis on equalizing money resources, merely exaggerates differences in non-monetary resources.

    In many countries, such as Germany and the United States, campaigns can be funded by a combination of private and public money.

    In some electoral systems, candidates who win an election or secure a minimum number of ballots are allowed to apply for a rebate to the government. The candidate submits an audited report of the campaign expenses and the government issues a rebate to the candidate, subject to some caps such as the number of votes cast for the candidate or a blanket cap. For example, in the 2008 election, candidates for the Legislative Council of Hong Kong were entitled to a rebate up to HK$11 per vote.

  3. Anonymous
    March 8, 2017 at 9:03 pm

    This is an Island, not Soth America nor north america, or Europe, y is it this Island have to be like other countries; I often ask my self this question,

  4. Anonymous
    March 8, 2017 at 11:54 pm

    Is it justified to use money for an election campaign that is designated for a hospital construction project?

  5. Anonymous
    March 9, 2017 at 12:02 am

    I don’t believe in the public financing of political campaigns. To me your political party is your private business and you should raise your funds through private ventures. And, by the way, what’s the big thing about financing political campaigns? What expenses does the political party have to meet? Oh, you mean food, drinks, T-shirts, transportation, etc? Well do as you can with whatever little resources you have, and use such financial skills as practice for when your party gets into Government, if it gets into Government. Cut your suit according to the cloth you have. You have a lot of cloth, make a big suit. You have a little cloth, make a small suit. Period.

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